LOS ANGELES -- Rookies Freddy Peralta and Corbin Burnes positioned the Brewers to put the National League Championship Series in a vise, swooping into action in relief of injured starter Giovany Gonzalez to deal five innings of electric relief. The rest of the bullpen was just as strong, including Josh Hader pitching for the second straight day and Corey Knebel pitching for the eighth time in as many October games -- including that Game 163 at Wrigley Field -- and Junior Guerra working deep into the night as the time of the game pushed past five hours.
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What was missing for the Brewers in an exhausting 2-1 loss to the Dodgers in 13 innings in Game 4 was the big hit. The Dodgers finally found it with two outs in the 13th, when Cody Bellinger roped a single into right field and tied the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.
It was the Dodgers' first hit with a runner in scoring position since way back in the first inning. They finished 2-for-10. The Brewers were 0-for-8.
"It hurts when your pitchers go out there and keep these guys to one run for going on 13 innings -- you want to win that game," said Lorenzo Cain, who wore the frustration on his face after going 0-for-6, including three strikeouts and a pair of meek groundouts with men in scoring position. "As an offense, we struggled big-time. We have to turn this thing around and score some more runs for these guys, because they've just been so good for us all season long."
The challenge in Game 5 is this: Clayton Kershaw starts for the Dodgers on full rest. Wade Miley goes for the Brewers on short rest, and although both teams' relief corps were worked hard on Tuesday, Milwaukee's was worked harder after Gonzalez exited with no outs in the second inning with a high ankle sprain that ended his postseason. The Brewers tabbed Zach Davies to replace Gonzalez on the NLCS roster.
In an effort to hold the Dodgers in check and give his hitters more chances to take a 3-1 series lead, manager Craig Counsell used ace reliever Hader for 20 pitches, a day after Hader threw eight pitches for two outs in Game 3.
Hader has never pitched three straight days.
"It's not about Josh. We had to cover 13 innings of baseball," said Counsell. "We'll have to kind of put our heads together and look at what we've got. We've got some guys we've used quite a bit. We were able to stay away from a couple of guys tonight, but we're in a little bit of a tough spot, for sure. I think that's just the nature of a 13-inning game and losing your starter in the second inning."
In the history of best-of-seven series with the 2-3-2 format, when the first four games are split, the team that is on the road for Game 5 -- and back home for Games 6-7 -- has still gone on to take the series 31 of 54 times (57 percent). The teams will have a quick turnaround for Game 5, which is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. CT today at Dodger Stadium.
This one was there for the taking, but the Dodgers took it first. Bellinger, 1-for-21 in the series before going 2-for-4 off the bench in Game 4, made his presence felt in the field with a spectacular catch against Cain in the 10th inning before winning the game with his bat in the 13th.
His hit scored Manny Machado, who played the role of villain for the second straight night but also continued to produce. His broken-bat single gave L.A. its first baserunner against Guerra in the right-hander's fourth inning of work. Machado moved into scoring position when a wild pitch bounced away from catcher Erik Kratz.
With first base open and another slumping Dodger, Yasmani Grandal, on deck followed by the pitcher, the idea was to get Bellinger to chase. But Guerra left a 2-2 slider in his hitting zone, and Bellinger sent it to the outfield. After Machado raced home, the Dodgers chased Bellinger into left field.
"Honestly, I was surprised that they were throwing to me," said Bellinger. "I thought they would pitch around me and get me to swing. Once I saw they were attacking me, it was just kind of grind mode and do what you can to put the ball in play and try to end the game."
That's not how the at-bat was supposed to go.
"From my view, we were trying to expand on Cody Bellinger," Counsell said. "We expanded, we just left the pitch too much up. ... I thought it was worth the risk of trying to expand to Bellinger, and if the at-bat goes to Grandal, we walk Grandal."
Counsell entered the game with a strategy similar to that of Game 1 -- pitch Gonzalez short against a Dodgers lineup stocked with right-handed hitters, then hand the ball to a righty out of the bullpen and force Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to decide whether to start emptying his bench.
What Counsell didn't count on was Gonzalez missing the strike zone with 15 of his 25 pitches in the first inning while falling into a 1-0 hole, then rolling his ankle and sustaining a high ankle sprain trying to field Yasiel Puig's comebacker leading off the second. Gonzalez remained in the game for one wincing pitch, then was removed in favor of Peralta, who was on the postseason roster for each of the first two rounds but was the last player to get in a game.
A team is allowed to replace an injured player on its postseason roster, but the player would then be ineligible for the next round, meaning Gonzalez will miss the World Series if the Brewers advance.
For Peralta, the wait was worthwhile. He started where Gonzalez left off, walking two of the first four men he faced before striking out the first of those lefties off L.A.'s bench, Player Page for Max Muncy, to strand the bases loaded in the second inning and finding a rhythm beginning with a pair of called strikeouts in the third.
Over three hitless innings, Peralta walked two and struck out six, keeping the deficit at 1-0 until Domingo Santana, pinch-hitting in Peralta's spot in the fifth, delivered an opposite-field RBI double to tie the score. The hit scored Orlando Arcia, the suddenly hot-hitting shortstop who logged a hit before the game even began courtesy of an official scoring change from Game 3, then singled and scored on Santana's double with a headfirst slide.
Enter Burnes, who pitched two perfect innings with three strikeouts as the bridge to the usual late-inning relievers. Joakim Soria, Hader and Knebel each worked a scoreless frame before Guerra took over in extra innings.
"We got some incredible pitching performances tonight," said Counsell.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Hader's escape: Entering the night, left-handed batters were 8-for-96 this season against Hader, who had not allowed multiple hits to lefties in a game all year. The only such game in his career was on Aug. 18, 2017, when Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez and Charlie Blackmon managed hits against him in his rookie season. That duo had company when Muncy led off a long, replay-rich eighth inning with a well-struck single to center field and Bellinger followed two batters later by beating the shift with a soft single to left. That brought to the plate Matt Kemp as a pinch-hitter against Hader for the second straight night. And just like in Game 3, Hader mustered a 98-mph fastball for an inning-ending strikeout to send a tie game to the ninth.
Bellinger takes flight: The Brewers have never scored a run in 20 matchups against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, including two games in this series. Bellinger helped keep it that way by turning the tables on the Brewers' best defensive outfielder, Cain, making a five-star catch in right field to rob Cain of a leadoff hit in the 10th. Bellinger had a 17 percent catch probability, according to Statcast™, and needed to cover 61 feet in 3.7 seconds to make the play. If the baseball got past him, Cain could have been off to the races, and two batters later, Ryan Braun singled to center field. Braun stole second, but Jesus Aguilar struck out to end the inning.
"I thought for sure that was falling," said Cain, who'd been on the other side of that batter-fielder combo when he robbed Bellinger of a home run in the Brewers' 1-0 win at Dodger Stadium on July 31. "He made a great play. I took one from him, and he took one from me. Tip your cap, he made a great play and he ended up walking it off for them. Nice."
With the performances of Peralta and Burnes, the Brewers became the third to team to have two pitchers throw multiple scoreless innings in a postseason game before their 24th birthdays. The other clubs were the 1969 Mets (Gary Gentry, Nolan Ryan in Game 3 of the World Series) and the 2002 Angels (John Lackey and Francisco Rodriguez in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series).
TO BUNT, OR NOT TO BUNT?
With the score tied at 1 in the seventh, Manny Pina led off against Kenta Maeda with a double and sparked a debate from the broadcast booth to the shores of Lake Michigan about whether the situation called for a bunt. The argument in favor of bunting was bolstered by hindsight, since Arcia, the would-be bunter, followed with a flyout to shallow left field (where Chris Taylor made a nice sliding catch) before pinch-hitter Curtis Granderson flied out to the deepest part of the park in center field, just missing a two-run homer for the second time in the series. Cain then grounded out on the first pitch to end a scoreless inning.
Should the Brewers have bunted?
Using Tom Tango's run expectancy chart, which gathered data from all games from 1950-2015, here's the math:
In terms of total runs scored in an inning, teams averaged 1.1 runs per inning with a man on second and no outs, and .95 runs with a man on third and one out.
In terms of just run expectancy -- trying to score that one run -- teams had a 61.4 percent chance to score a run with a runner on second and no outs, versus a 66 percent chance with a runner on third and one out.
But the second set of data assumes 100 percent execution of a bunt, which in real life, of course, is no sure thing. The Brewers, like most teams with an analytical bent, very rarely bunt, and Arcia had only one successful sacrifice in 366 plate appearances during the regular season, and only three in 1,130 plate appearances in his career. There's also the fact that Arcia has been one of Milwaukee's most productive hitters this postseason, and there was an argument in favor of letting him swing the bat.
So it would have been perfectly justifiable for the Brewers to bunt in that spot, but it was right in line with the way Counsell has managed the past four seasons that they didn't.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Christian Yelich has been relatively quiet at the plate in the postseason, but he made his presence felt in the field in the seventh. After Austin Barnes grounded a single up the middle off Soria to start the frame, Soria retired Joc Pederson on a popout and Taylor on a strikeout to bring up Justin Turner, whose two-run homer in the eighth inning of Game 2 sent the Dodgers to victory. Turner got enough of an 0-2 fastball away to send it toward the right-field corner, where Yelich made a running catch and tumbled over the low wall and into the stands. He was OK, and the inning was over.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS, TOO
As if the tense game wasn't drama enough, both benches cleared in the bottom of the 10th inning after Machado clipped the back of first baseman Aguilar's leg on a groundout. The two had words, and when the discussion escalated, they were joined on the field by their teammates. After a brief gathering, Guerra retired James Dozier to send the game to an 11th inning.
Was it a dirty play?
"It looked like it," Aguilar said. "I've known Manny for many years, and I don't know why he would act like that. But we talked. It's over. For me, it's over."
Said Yelich: "It's a dirty play by a dirty player. That's what he is. I have a lot of respect for him as a player, but you can't respect someone who plays the game like that. It has no place in our game."
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Brewers used both of their challenges during a single Dozier at-bat in the eighth inning, first asking the umpires to look for fan interference on a foul ball down the right-field line, where Yelich attempted a sliding catch. The original non-call stodd.
Then, after Dozier grounded into a fielder's choice and narrowly got to first base to avoid an inning-ending double play, the Brewers challenged again. A challenge covers the totality of the play, so officials examined whether Muncy had violated the slide rule at second base and whether Dozier reached first in time. In both cases the original calls were confirmed.